North Carolina Moravian Flask, ca. 1815

Value (2012) | $15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
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APPRAISER:
So tell me about this great little bottle that you brought in.

GUEST:
Well, it was my grandmother's, and they called it a doll. She said that it was her great-grandmother's doll. My great-great-great-grandmother lived in North Carolina. But at some point, they traveled out to Missouri and then came back to North Carolina. And that's really all the history I have on the doll.

APPRAISER:
And where in North Carolina were they from?

GUEST:
Winston-Salem.

APPRAISER:
That's a great little heirloom, and what do you do with it now?

GUEST:
Dust it. That's about it.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, and the story is that your grandmother used this as a toy?

GUEST:
She played with it, she played with it. And we don't know why there's a hole in the head. I don't know if there used to be another type of hair coming out or what, but she's got a hole in her head.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, she certainly does. Well, when you told me that your family was from Winston-Salem, that was one of the clues to help me identify this little flask.

GUEST:
Okay... oh, you're k...

APPRAISER:
And this is a very rare bottle. It was made by Moravian potters.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
In Salem, North Carolina. Salem was the center of Southern pottery making. The industry began there in the mid-18th century. But this style of bottle was made in the first couple decades of the 19th century. This was probably made 1810 to 1830.

GUEST:
Wow, wow.

APPRAISER:
Whether they were used for spirits or whatever, but the hole is where a cork was. So it was not a doll.

GUEST:
Oh... (laughs) Okay.

APPRAISER:
It was actually used to store liquid in. The Moravian potters of Salem-- or what's commonly known today as Old Salem-- made a number of forms like this. They made a squirrel holding a nut, a fish, a turtle.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
The doll is probably the one you see more often than anything. The necklace somebody added.

GUEST:
Yes, I think my grandmother did that. She was very handy.

APPRAISER:
Okay, so she wanted to dress her doll up. And although it's really hard to see when you look at her crossed hands, she's holding a little bouquet of flowers. Now, one thing I should also tell you about this, when you look at the side, do you see the mark here? The vertical mark here?

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
This was made in a mold, in a pressed mold. So the clay was put together, then they pushed the mold together to make it. It was not a hand-thrown bottle, it was a mold-made flask. These are very collectible and very desirable. Have you ever had anybody look at it and say, "Hey, I'd like to buy that from you."

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
This flask would sell at auction for between $15,000 and $25,000.

GUEST:
That's amazing. So I'll keep on dusting it. Maybe I'll put it away so it doesn't get dusty. That's wonderful, that's wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
Cincinnati, OH
Appraised value (2012)
$15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
Event
Myrtle Beach, SC (June 23, 2012)
Period
19th Century
Form
Flask
Material
Pottery

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